Today’s news from

Monetization plan to stay secret until January, Democratic Congressmen criticize Christie’s Ashcroft arrangement, Codey says tolls could rise 50% under monetization plan, Corzine’s agenda includes ending pay-to-play.


“A Mercer County judge yesterday ruled that Gov. Jon Corzine can keep under wraps a study of how much new toll revenue he might be able to squeeze from three state highways.

"Clearly, the governor has not decided to make monetization of toll roads the official policy of the state. Rather, the administration is still weighing the merits of such a policy," said Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg.

Republicans filed a lawsuit in September seeking the release of the study by Steer Davies Gleave of London. The consultants analyzed the toll-raising potential of the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway, as well as a stretch of Route 440 that connects the Turnpike and Parkway. Administration officials have paid $800,000 to the consultants, but say they are withholding a $80,000 payment until the final work is done.

After reviewing the study privately, the judge decided Corzine administration officials were right in asserting that it is still a work in progress. Republicans contend that immediate release of the publicly funded analysis would help clarify the governor's sweeping plan to put the state's long-term finances on sounder footing. Feinberg disagreed, saying releasing it now "could lead to confusion of the public."” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)


“In picking his former boss’s firm to oversee a company and earn up to $52 million in the process, U.S. Attorney Chris Christie did something rare: he opened himself up to public criticism from Democrats.

Over the last couple years, Christie has been one of the most visible and popular Republicans in the state – and widely assumed to be seriously considering a gubernatorial bid in 2009. But he has remained nearly immune to public attacks by elected Democratic officials, even as discontent brewed just below the surface in some Democratic circles about his investigation of Bob Menendez while he was running for reelection to the U.S. Senate, or about his public style that has some Democrats quietly grumbling about his political aspirations.

But U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone’s letter to Christie criticizing his choice of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, his former boss, to oversee Zimmer Holdings — a company that made a $311 settlement with the government over paying kickbacks to doctors to use its medical implants — appears to have struck a chord with fellow Democrats. And just today, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell sent his own letter to the House Judiciary Committee calling for hearings on the ways in which U.S. Attorneys hire overseers (Pascrell said that his letter was not inspired by Pallone’s).

Today, several members of New Jersey’s Democratic Congressional delegation said that they would stand with Pallone and Pascrell in looking into creating legislation to change the way overseers like Ashcroft’s firm are chosen, and to investigate the practice of deferred prosecution – ending a criminal investigation by allowing companies to pay a fine and undergo federal monitoring.” (Friedman,

“A New Jersey congressman yesterday asked the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the circumstances that let U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie appoint his former boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft, to a monitoring contract that might be worth as much as $52 million.

In a letter to the committee leaders, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) asked the panel for hearings on the Justice Department's use of so-called deferred prosecution agreements and the appointment of monitors to settle corporate fraud investigations.

"Under the continued threat of prosecution, any party being investigated seemingly has little choice but to agree to the selection of these federal monitors and their exorbitant fees," Pascrell wrote. "Therein the selection of these federal monitors by the U.S. Attorney's Office could give the impression of impropriety and political favoritism.” (Martin and Whelan, Star-Ledger)




Gov. Corzine's plan to raise tolls in order to cut state debt could lead to toll hikes of 50 percent or more within two years of taking effect, Senate President Richard J. Codey said Monday.

Codey, D-Essex, said he does not know an exact figure, but that it's "reasonable to say" tolls would rise by 50 percent or more, based on the amount of money Corzine hopes to raise in order to reduce the state's $38 billion debt.

A 50 percent increase would mean a more than $3.20 increase on the $6.45 it currently costs cars to drive the length of the New Jersey Turnpike. A 70-cent Garden State Parkway toll would rise by 35 cents.

"The governor is doing what he has to do, frankly, to bail us out," Codey said. "We all have an obligation to either say yes or to come up with a better plan, and at this point I don't have a better plan."” (Tamari, Gannett)



Governor Corzine will advance a "full agenda" on campaign finance and ethics reform next year, possibly by convening a special session of the Legislature in hopes of restoring public confidence in New Jersey's scandal-marred political system.

In an interview with The Record on Monday, Corzine offered few specifics, but hinted that he's considering a more sweeping "pay-to-play" ban on campaign contributions from government contractors. Corzine also acknowledged that he may use his State of the State speech on Jan. 8 to jump-start a renewed period of reform.

"If you could tell me to end pay-to-play on all levels or ban all dual-office holding, I'll take [ending] pay-to-play,'' Corzine said inside his State House office, where his desk is piled with the polarity of his political agenda. A report on the Highlands sits squarely in the center, while a business card from South Jersey power broker George Norcross rests o
n a nearby pad.

Corzine denied that he was backing away from an earlier pledge to attack the issue immediately after the fall election. He argued Monday that it would be better to work with the new Legislature, which will include 25 new members of the Assembly and four new senators. Some campaigned as proponents of ethics reform, he said.” (Stile, Bergen Record)



“Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance is sounding more and more like a Congressional candidate to replace U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson, who announced last week that he will not seek another term.

"I’m very heavily leaning in the direction of running” said Lance, who’s been making phone calls to shore up support. “I’m very encouraged by the conversations I’ve had across the district, and that’s in all four counties. And obviously there will be unity, complete support here in Hunterdon County”

If Lance does decide to run, he’ll be the Republican favorite to take on the Democrats’ likely nominee, Assemblywoman Linda Stender. He’s one of the highest profile politicians whose name is still in consideration and is popular in his native Hunterdon County, an important chunk of the primary votes for any Republican.” (Friedman,



Kate Whitman, the daughter of former Gov. Christie Whitman, is considering running for Congress. But she wants the public to know that she does not feel any sense of entitlement.

"I don't think just because my last name is Whitman I'm entitled to anything. I'll work just as hard if not harder than anyone else for this," said the 30-year-old Whitman, who has worked as a congressional staffer, for the U.S. Department of Labor, and the New Hampshire Republican Party. She is the Executive Director of the Republican Leadership Council, which her mother co-chairs.

She said that her lack of experience as an elected official isn't necessarily detrimental.

"Maybe it's time we need someone with a little bit of a different perspective. Some people may say that I should have municipal experience and that's their opinion," said Whitman.

She also said that being the mother twin boys makes her care even more about the district.

"I have twin sons who are two and a half years old. I truly care about New Jersey and this district, and having grown up here I care about the future of it not only for my children but the future of the district. I think I bring a fresh perspective," said Whitman. "I'm by no means announcing anything, but I'm definitely talking to people about it."” (Friedman,



“Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks says he's definitely in the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson in the 7th district.

"We're full steam ahead on this," said Marks, a dentist who is in his eighth year as mayor. "I intend to take this to the finish line."

Marks, 45, reiterated his belief that his candidacy would make the most strategic sense for the Republican Party, and argues that because he is from the same corner of Union County as Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender, he can compete with her better than any other candidate.

He acknowledged the name recognition of presumptive frontrunner state Sen. Minority Leader Leonard Lance of Hunterdon County.

"But that doesn't necessarily carry the day in Union County," said Marks. "I'm not so sure Republican voters who tend to be little more conservative, would identify with Leonard Lance's brand of Republicanism."” (Pizarro,



Will Mennen says he spoke with his family over the Thanksgiving break, and they are supportive of his efforts to seek the 7th district U.S. Congressional seat – in the event he decides to run.

"I'm trying to be deliberative about this, because I only want to make this decision once," said the Tewksbury attorney and freeholder-elect. "I'm the type of guy, when I'm in it, I'm in it. That's 110%."

Mennen could be emerging as Hunterdon County's alternative to Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance, who is also strongly leaning toward running for the seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson. But Mennen said he had conversations with Lance last week and acknowledged today that what the minority leader ends up doing might affect his own decision.

"Leonard Lance is a class act who has a lot to offer," Mennen said.

When all four counties are factored in, the race has the makings of a regional primary war for the GOP.” (Pizarro,



“Hamilton Mayor Glen Gilmore today said he was disappointed but not shockedby the results ofan election he lost earlier this month by 51 to 49%, and wouldn't speculate on the details of a comeback. Asked about rumors that he would challenge Rep. Christopher Smith in 2008, Gilmore left the door open.

"I am proud of what I was able to accomplish and I am glad I had the opportunity to serve," said Gilmore. "I look forward to returning to private life for the immediate future. I haven't decided what I'll do, but I don't rule out the possibility of someday running for public office."

Gilmore said he had given every ounce of his energy to the office of mayor and felt at peace with his two terms as Hamilton's chief executive.” (Pizarro,



“Maverick state Sen. Ronald Rice is going with the establishment pick for president in the 2008 election.

"I'm looking forward to supporting Hillary Clinton," the Newark lawmaker told

That puts him in a camp with old rivals Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and North Ward boss Steve Adubato, and pitted againstNewark Mayor Cory Booker andthesenator'sson, West Ward Councilman Ron Rice, Jr., bothBarack Obama supporters.A key Riceally, Sen. President Richard Codey, supports the presidential candidacy of Sen. John Edwards.

Rice said he can't support Obama based on what he sees as the first term United States' senator's lack of foreign policy experience.

"I think he's a newcomer to that level of government," said Rice. "My concern is that given the times we're in, you have to have serious relationships with the leaders of other countries, developed over a period of time. Hillary has that as a former first lady and from her years in the Senate."” (Pizarro,


With all his talk about an "extreme need to stabilize and restore the government," one would think new Atlantic City Mayor Scott K. Evans had taken office in a third-world nation.

At the start of his first full week in the $97,850-a-year position yesterday, Evans – the resort's third mayor in less than 60 days – repeatedly pledged to restore confidence in a city government tarnished by generations of scandals and corruption.

"I think that really is the first order of business, to let people know the government is stable and we are moving forward," Evans, 42, said during an interview in the conference room adjacent to his seventh-floor office in City Hall.

Much of his day was spent familiarizing himself with the workings of city government, meeting City Hall employees, and talking with developers and casino power brokers eager to introduce themselves, Evans said.

The former Atlantic City Fire Department Battalion Chief became the youngest person ever to serve as the city's mayor when he was sworn in Wednesday night to complete Bob Levy's term, which ends December 2008.” (Urgo, Philadelphia Inquirer)


ATLANTIC CITY – Becoming mayor of Atlantic City was a victory for Scott Evans. But running the resort comes with some compromises he's not ready to accept. Evans was appointed mayor last week, leaving his status as a city school board member in question.

"I know I cannot fill both positions. But whether that position can be held on an interim basis or if it can remain vacant (until the mayoral term expires), I don't know," said Evans, who has sought advice from his lawyer on whether he can be granted a leave of absence from the school board.

But New Jersey School Boards Association spokesman Frank Belluscio said Evans is wasting his time.

"There's actually no such animal as a leave of absence on a school board," Belluscio said. "Upon assuming the mayorship, he essentially was off the board."

Although he would not comment on any pleasure he felt in seeing Evans leave the board, Superintendent Fredrick Nickles was quick to reject any idea of Evans remaining on the board.

"He's automatically off the board," he said. "He cannot serve both positions."” (Clark, Press of Atlantic City)



“A troubled $1 billion plan to turn landfills into luxury housing and premium golf courses in the Meadowlands received another last-minute reprieve yesterday.

The state gave developer EnCap Golf Holdings 30 days to clean up environmental hazards or face stiff penalties, the second extension in a month for the North Carolina-based company.

Officials said the firm must deposit $5 million to an escrow account to be held by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and to be used to pay for environmental remediation on the development's sites. The cleanup must include uncontrolled methane gas emissions and emissions of leachate.

"We expect that during this 30-day period EnCap will make measurable progress toward full resolution of these environmental issues," Assistant Attorney General Robert A. Romano wrote yesterday in a letter to attorneys for EnCap and the Trump Organization.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump agreed to take over day-to-day operations at the site and overhaul its sales and marketing strategy.

Trump recently asked for a six month extension to deliver a new master plan for the project, one he promised would be exciting and bring balance between development and open space to the 785-acre venture. Romano said state agencies considered his request but, for now, can agree to just one month.” (Ben Ali, Star-Ledger)



MORRISTOWN — Last year, he wanted to double his salary. Then, when that move was unsuccessful, he sought a nearly 50 percent salary hike. That failed, too, so he's trying yet again.

Mayor Donald Cresitello again is seeking to have his $26,042 salary raised, this time by up to $6,000. The town's salary range ordinance, up for introduction at tonight's council meeting, would increase the range to $32,042.

Cresitello, in a telephone interview Monday, would not discuss the proposed hike.

"I don't want to comment," he said. "I just decided to drop it," he said, referring to the $12,000 pay hike he sought last summer…………

When asked whether he believes he will have opposition on the council, Cresitello said, "Ultimately, I'm sure the same people will challenge it again."

Councilman Timothy Jackson, who has opposed the pay hikes in the past, said he would do so again.

"I've been opposed to all of them," said Jackson, who will be replaced in January by Rebecca Feldman for the First Ward seat, after losing re-election earlier this month. "He is just trying to get what he can get."” (Hassan, Daily Record)


“A Municipal Court judge who performed closings on properties that were tied to a Paterson real-estate scheme has been removed temporarily from the bench, city officials said.

William C. Colacino Jr. was relieved of his duties last week, City Manager Thomas Duch said. Bergen County Presiding Municipal Judge Roy McGeady will take Colacino's place in court until further notice, Duch said.

"The press has indicated that his initials have come up frequently in this case, but at this point without an indictment, they're just allegation," Duch said. "You're innocent until proven guilty on one side, and on the other side, people are coming into Municipal Court to have cases heard, and they're having their case heard by a judge who keeps being referred to in the press."

On Nov. 14, Mahwah Realtor Michael Eliasof pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Newark to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering for his role in artificially inflating the value of properties and selling them to unqualified buyers. He admitted to profiting by between $1 million and $2.5 million and making kickback payments to his co-conspirators. A Herald News review of real estate documents found that Colacino, who had a private law practice in Garfield, acted as the closing attorney on more than a dozen real estate transactions with Eliasof, who oversaw the scam.” (MacInness, Herald news)



“A deputy chief with the Newark Police Department violated state directives on immigration enforcement when he asked witnesses to a crime scene if they were in the country legally, an investigation by the state attorney general has found.

In findings announced yesterday, state investigators concluded that Deputy Chief Samuel DeMaio wrongly asked a freelance photographer and his boss about their immigration status after the two journalists had alerted police to a dead body in the city's Ironbound section.

The Sept. 6 incident occurred less than three weeks after Attorney General Anne Milgram issued new guidelines ordering police to report illegal immigrants arrested for serious crimes to federal immigration authorities.

The directive, however, also prohibits police from asking crime victims and witnesses about their immigration status.

Yesterday, Milgram recommended that DeMaio be disciplined and all Newark police officers receive training on the immigration directive.

"Complying with the directive is the responsibility of every law enforcement officer in the state and gives assurances to witnesses, victims and those needing police assistance that they may come forward without fear of questions directed to their immigration status," Milgram said in a release. "Public safety suffers if individuals believe they cannot come forward to report crime or cooperate with law enforcement." ” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)


“EVESHAM – The school district and the American Civil Liberties Union are fighting in court over records relating to a controversial video that shows gay families. The ACLU's New Jersey chapter said Monday the district has refused to provide e-mail sent to and from school board members about the health-class film, "That's a Family!"

The documentary sparked an outcry from both critics and supporters after it was shown to a third-grade class in December. Board members pulled it from the district's curriculum in August.

The ACLU said the e-mail must be made available under the group's Aug. 30 request for all public records concerning the video dispute. The group said the district contends the e-mail messages are not public records because board members use private e-mail accounts.

A district spokeswoman, Jeanne Smith, declined to comment on the issue Monday, saying school officials need time to assess the ACLU's statement.

According to the ACLU, the district filed suit in Superior Court in Mount Holly, asking a judge to block the e-mail request. The group said it filed a motion Monday seeking to dismiss the district's "meritless" suit.

"Evesham School District has no business hauling us into court over a public records request," said Jeanne LoCicero, an ACLU attorney. "They are attempting heavy-handed tactics to avoid accountability under the state's open public records laws."” (Walsh, Courier-Post)



“Feisty state Athletic Control Board Commissioner Larry Hazzard, who shepherded New Jersey boxing for 22 years, said Monday he lost his job because he spoke out about issues involving fighters' well-being.

"I have always had a reputation for standing up for the health of the fighters," Hazzard said by telephone from his home in Edison.

He said he had his attorney write to Gov. Corzine when Hazzard thought his boss, state Attorney General Anne Milgram, was not responding to his entreaties.

Hazzard said Kim Ricketts, an administrator in the state Division of Law and Public Safety, called Hazzard to a meeting Wednesday.

"The only thing that she said was that, "As you know, you are an at-will employee, and we are looking at all the departments.' I got no specific reasons for the firing," Hazzard said.

"I have had instances of mismatches. I have had a plethora of irregularities. I have had a boxer who tested positive for HIV," Hazzard said, adding that Milgram took no corrective action when he brought those issues up.” (Baldwin, Gannett)


“State Health Commissioner Fred Jacobs will be returning to the Saint Barnabas Health Care System when he steps down at the end of the year, officials announced yesterday.

Jacobs, 71, was named executive vice president and director of the system's new Saint Barnabas Quality Institute. He will assume his position, which brings together all of the system's quality initiatives under one umbrella, on Jan. 28.

Jacobs' association with Saint Barnabas began in 1969, when he joined the staff as a physician. An internist with a sub-specialty in pulmonary medicine, Jacobs eventually reached the position of executive vice president for medical affairs for the six-hospital system. It was while holding that position that he was tapped by then-Acting Gov. Richard Codey to be state health commissioner three years ago.

"I have tried to keep Saint Barnabas at arm's length throughout my whole time as commissioner," he said, noting he recently submitted a letter of recusal because he was considering the job offer. ” (Stewart, Star-Ledger)


“A panel of law enforcement and civil rights experts will recommend that Gov. Jon Corzine end federal oversight of the State Police after eight years of reform but will insist that some form of outside monitoring remain in place, according to two individuals familiar with its draft report.

The panel agrees with federal monitors who say the State Police no longer need to operate under a court-ordered consent decree that began after the state acknowledged racial profiling existed in its ranks, according to a panel member and another individual who was briefed on the draft report. The two spoke on the condition of anonymity because the panel continues to deliberate on certain recommendations. It is expected to issue its final report to Corzine on Friday.

However, the Advisory Committee on Police Standards has also concluded that the state Attorney General's Office should continue its day-to-day monitoring of the State Police and that another layer of oversight by a different state agency is needed to fill the void left by the departing federal monitors.

In addition, even more auditing — possibly by an independent group — is still being considered, according to the panel member.

"The monitoring has been ratcheted up, rather than been ratcheted down," said the panel member. ” (Hepp, Star-Ledger)



“ISLAND HEIGHTS — Coming off the Nov. 6 drubbing that saw Republicans retain every legislative and county office, and recapture the mayors' offices in Toms River and Brick, the Lacey and Island Heights Democratic Clubs have joined to create a coalition to help "bring about a much needed change in the direction of our nation and for our county."

Barry Bendar, the Democratic municipal chairman in Lacey, said the coalition will work to "expand Democratic participation in Ocean County political life by helping expand existing Democratic clubs and establishing new ones."

He said Republican governments are "'creating new Democrats every day," and the newcomers need to be organized.

"Democrats are grievously under-represented in government throughout most of Ocean County," he said. There is no Democratic presence in some communities, with key leadership positions vacant.

He said the coalition will offer its "time and talents" 'to expand and organize other clubs.

The effort will be made with the county Democratic leadership, Bendar said, urging other clubs to join the coalition.” (Bennett, Asbury Park Press)




“The future of a Gloucester County official snagged by a federal monitor at the state's embattled medical school remains unclear, even as state and federal officials decide whether to end the oversight that resulted in his dismissal from a top university post.

Freeholder Warren Wallace lost his $166,000 job at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in June 2006 amid allegations that he had used his clout at the public institution to aid family, friends and himself.

No criminal charges were ever filed against Wallace, who served as senior associate dean for academic and student affairs at the university's School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford. He was, however, never cleared of any illegal acts.

"The amount of time that has gone by is suggestive that he won't be charged," Wallace's attorney, Rocco Cipparone Jr., said Monday. "I really do think there is no foundation for suspicion."

On Monday, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said that his office would consider in the next few weeks whether to do away with the federal monitor assigned two years ago to review practices at UMDNJ. The decision will depend on the input of state and university officials, he said.

"We've seen remarkable progress and changes," said Christie's spokesman Michael Drewniak. "Clearly, there were systemic issues and problems at UMDNJ." ” (Graber and McCarthy, Gloucester county Times)



“The whistle-blower who revealed the grading scandal at the city's defunct Sherman Avenue campus, despite facing hurdles and opposition from school district officials, has retired from teaching after 32 years.

The school board has unanimously approved the retirement of Beverly Jones, in addition to granting her $32,445 in wage reimbursements from when Jones was forced out of the district on June 30, 2007.

"I did the job I was paid to do, but in the end, the district chose to do a job on me," Jones said. "I think everyone just wanted me to shut up and pretend it wasn't happening, but I could never do that. I know I've done the right thing."

Her retirement and compensation were approved in a meeting Nov. 13 after a lengthy executive session. School officials have given unclear answers as to whether the vote occurred in public as required by law.

Minutes from that executive session indicate the board voted in public around 10:30 p.m., according to business administrator Mel Wyns. However, district attorney Thomas Sumners said yesterday, "They didn't vote in public. They don't have to." ” (Rich, Trenton Times)



“Sea Bright's Republican mayor has bee
n granted an election recount, which will take place at 10 a.m. Dec. 4.

Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams lost the race for mayor to Democratic Councilwoman Maria Fernandes by three votes — 272 to 269 — according to results tabulated from the Nov. 6 election by Monmouth County election officials.

Kalaka-Adams had not indicated publicly that she intended to challenge the results, and Fernandes said she was "surprised" by the request.

Kalaka-Adams could not be reached for comment.

"I found out about it Thanksgiving morning when there were notices about the recount dropped at my front door," Fernandes said Monday. "They have the right to have a recount, but what's the chances they're going to pick up four votes? They were telling everyone they were going to let it go. I don't know what changed. I haven't seen (Kalaka-Adams) since the election, and she didn't go to the last town meeting (Nov. 19)."” (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)

  Today’s news from